Diego Melo photo portrait
PhD Candidate in Geography • Extractivism and Dispossession • Political Ecology • Ethno-Territorial Rights • Marxist, feminist, and queer theories • Colombia • Latin America
Human Geography

Your Research Interests 

I’m a political ecologist working at the intersection of the geographies of dispossession and environmental justice in northwestern Colombia. My dissertation research investigates the re-configuration of gold mining in the Chocó department and its effects on Black Communities, Indigenous Peoples, and White-Mestizo peasant-farmers living along the upper Atrato River basin. Drawing from marxist, feminist, and anti-racist theories and methodologies, I work to interrogate the operations of racial capitalism on and against body-territories in the Pacific Lowlands.

Your Current Research 

In 2020-2021, I worked for the Colombian Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Co-existence and Non-repetition. As a research analyst, I had the opportunity to interview victims of the armed conflict, local and regional community organizers, genocide survivors, and FARC ex-combatants. The Commission’s work, a massive collective endeavor aimed to clarify, understand, and heal 60+ years of war and dispossession is now available in Spanish. It holds important implications for scholars interested in the political ecology of war in Colombia. I hope to make much of this work relatable to human geographers’ interests in the US through my scholarly work.

I am currently conducting a multi-sited ethnography of alluvial gold exploitation and copper concentrate mining in four municipalities in the Chocó province in the northwestern Pacific lowlands in Colombia. I work daily with community members and environmental justice organizers to better understand how armed violence and capitalist forces have reshaped territories and subjectivities toward medium- and large-resource extraction. 

More Info 

I have an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Latin American studies from Macalester College, in Saint Paul, MN, and a master's degree in Law, with an emphasis in Human Rights and Democratization, from the Externado University of Colombia. In the past, I have worked with NGOs to research the social and environmental impacts of extractive development projects, such as large-scale coal and gold mining. I am also intellectually committed to bringing in feminist and queer theories into discussions about environmental justice. I speak Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

Recent Courses Taught

Spring 2022 GEOG 1962-581: Geographies of Global Change
Summer 2022 GEOG 1972-581: Environment-Society Geography
Fall 2022 GEOG 1962-581: Geographies of Global Change
Fall 2022 GEOG 1962-582: Geographies of Global Change

Honors and Awards

  • Right to the Discipline Grant, Antipode Foundation
  • AAG Latin American Specialty Group, Best Student Paper 2020
  • Field Research Grant, Tinker Foundation 2019
  • Colciencias-Fulbright PhD Student Scholarship, Colombian Fulbright Commission 2017-2021

Recent Publications

Melo, Diego. (2023) Shifting Livelihoods: Gold Mining and Subsistence in the Chocó, Colombia by Daniel Tubb. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 41(2). https://www.societyandspace.org/articles/shifting-livelihoods-review

Ospina, J.S., Torres, D.C., Melo, D.A., Espinosa, A., Malagón, S. (2022) Pacífico. Colombia Adentro. Relatos territoriales sobre el conflicto armado. Bogotá: Comisión para el Esclarecimiento de la Verdad, la Convivencia y la No Repetición. https://www.comisiondelaverdad.co/colombia-adentro-1

Faculty advisor: Joe Bryan